STYLE AND THE CITY: Urban Theorist Elizabeth Wilson on Fashion, Women, and Modernity

By Ryan Moore Ryan Moore is an associate professor of sociology at Florida Atlantic University and the author of Sells Like Teen Spirit: Music, Youth Culture, and Social Crisis. You can find more of his work at maxthemarxist.blogspot.com. For women all over the world, urban life presents a dialectic of possibilities that includes both exploitation and liberation. Cities engulf everyone in their impersonal and unforgiving … Continue reading STYLE AND THE CITY: Urban Theorist Elizabeth Wilson on Fashion, Women, and Modernity

What Not to Wear: Shaming and Shopping

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article was not formatted correctly. Below is the correct version with the author’s original format.

by Greta Minsky

“We’re helping women find themselves . . . . The women really undergo an emotional transformation.  They go from being really in a rut to wanting to go out and conquer the world.”

Is this speaker talking about self-defense classes, or assertiveness training, or maybe seventies-style consciousness-raising?  Not even close.  Clinton Kelly is talking here about a popular reality television makeover show, What Not to Wear.[1] Kelly, along with Stacy London, hosts the U.S. version of a series that started here in 2003 and is still going strong.  The original U. K. series ran on the BBC from 2001 to 2007 and aired in twenty-two countries around the world, including Poland, Peru, and the United Arab Emirates.

So what’s the worldwide appeal of the show?  It promises its subjects (mostly, but not exclusively, women) that happiness can be theirs, through professional and romantic fulfillment, if they just learn to change the way they dress.   Nothing wrong with happiness, is there?  What’s not to like, then, about What Not to Wear?  How about the fact that it co-opts feminist rhetoric to promote an anti-feminist agenda?  And why now?  What twenty-first century anxieties does the show play to?  Is it part of the cloudy and contradictory concept of “postfeminist” culture? Continue reading “What Not to Wear: Shaming and Shopping”